Hermes Hermessence Poivre Samarcande : Perfume Review



Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

Black pepper is one of those multifaceted smells that create one expectation but suddenly emerge as something else. Expecting the rush of spice and heat, I took one whiff of Hermes Poivre Samarcande and immediately envisioned a scent of hot stones heated by the sun. It is a scent of a Japanese garden, capturing its simplicity of weathered stones amid the rippling sea of sand. The pepper vacillates between assuming woody and floral forms, all the while creating a sensation of dark, yet transparent warmth. Its initial rough edges are smoothed by undulating movements of warm dry cedarwood, slowly leading one from the sun and into the shade. The breath of vetiver, oakmoss and a whisper of cumin envelop the warmth of the composition further polishing the hot stones into the vision of radiant perfection.

Created for Hermèssence collection in 2005, Jean Claude Ellena’s signature is unmistakable, in the quiet opalescence of the composition and a warm skin undertone one finds in his other fragrances (Cartier Declaration and Frédéric Malle Cologne Bigarade, in particular, come to mind). On a man, Poivre Samarcande would be a clean, elegant scent, with a subtle sensual edge. It could definitely be worn by a woman, who enjoys dry fragrances, exploiting the affinity between woods and somber spices. Poivre Samarcande is one of my favorite fragrances for when I would like to take a break from the overt sensuality of white florals.

Photo: Japanese stone garden, from

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  • Tania: Lovely description. My impression was rather less poetic, but still formidable: I felt upon applying like a most delicious steak. Au poivre, I mean. It was downright savory! July 24, 2005 at 8:25pm Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you!
    Your description is great. Steak au poivre is poetic, no doubt about it, especially when made properly! I already had my dinner, but you made me hungry again. July 24, 2005 at 8:29pm Reply

  • D. D: i’m late to this party, but i absolutely love this one. its really sexy, and i’ve never enjoyed cumin (read: sweat) notes before this. November 4, 2014 at 9:52am Reply

    • Victoria: Same here! Until this perfume I used to like cumin only in food. November 6, 2014 at 1:33pm Reply

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